All about New Year’s Eve

Wednesday December 7th 2011

Anyone who remembers the 2010 romantic comedy Valentine’s Day isn’t trying hard enough to forget it. The film famously took ensemble comedy to unimaginable new lows — with a compendium of stock characters so utterly devoid of personality that to label them stereotypes would be overly complimentary — and went on to become both the worst and most successful rom-com of last year.

Almost immediately a sequel (of sorts) was greenlit and just twenty two short months later here comes New Year’s Eve, crashing into cinemas across the UK tomorrow like some kind of unstoppable natural disaster. With Ludacris in it.

The premise is basically the same as before: a baker’s dozen of assorted cunts go about their lives on a given day, blissfully unaware that they’re part of something bigger, something more profound, something with a fuckload more product placement.

Only Ashton Kutcher and Jessica Biel return from Valentine’s Day, and they play decidedly different characters (he was a florist, now he’s a cartoonist — such range!). Don’t worry though: franchise screenwriter Katherine Fugate’s new creations are just as cliché-ridden and predictable as her previous efforts. Among them:

A bed-ridden man (Robert DeNiro, dying, again) who wants to see the New Year’s Eve ball drop in Times Square just one last time.
A self-centered businessman (Josh Duhamel) who learns some important life lessons by spending a couple of hours with some working class people.
A middle-aged woman (Michelle Pfeiffer) whose lust for life is rejuvenated by a plucky young bike messenger (Zac Efron).
A hopeless cynic (Ashton Kutcher) who discovers the true meaning of New Year’s Eve after getting locked in an elevator with his neighbour (Lea Michele).
A world famous rock star (Jon Bon Jovi) named Jensen — that’s right, JENSEN — who’s due to perform in Times Square but can’t stop thinking about his ex-girlfriend (Katherine Heigl) who’s a chef, for some reason.

Efron gives what might be described as the standout performance (mainly thanks to a dance montage over the closing credits), but he’s nowhere near the saving grace that Anne Hathaway was to Valentine’s Day. The rest of the cast, meanwhile, look about as engaged as you’d expect given that they’re sharing a bill with twelve other not-exactly-A-list stars.

Comedy-wise, there is a bit where a very camp man says ‘vajayjay’ …

… but otherwise New Year’s Eve is pretty much laugh-free, trading on tired visual gags and some unbelievably cynical ‘cutesy’ scenes (baby montage anyone?) for most of its humour.

By the time the big closing montage rolls around, all of the characters have ended up roughly where you imagined they would (though a small part of me hoped there might be some kind of last minute mass-suicide) and we’re left to ruminate on the Big Issues: Is love a matter of fate, or simply chance? To what extent is New Year’s Eve an arbitrary and largely futile acknowledgement of the passage of time? And where can I get some Nivea ASAP?

Let’s hope 2012’s St. Patrick’s Day has the answers.